Thursday, October 30, 2014

Reflections on a Bishop's Sermon at Integrity Atlanta's 26th Annual Gay Pride Eucharist

Reflections on a sermon for Integrity Atlanta’s 26th Annual Gay Pride Eucharist for Human Rights, October 9, 2014

This service has had special meaning for me for many years. It is that not-often-found opportunity to share both my spirituality and sexuality in a safe space where those around me are doing the same. The service takes on even more meaning when the Bishop is preaching and presiding. Our shepherd is there with us and in many ways is "guiding and guarding" us. Such was clearly the case with the sermon preached by the Rt. Rev. Robert C. Wright, Bishop of Atlanta, on the occasion of Integrity Atlanta’s 26th Annual Gay Pride Eucharist.

2014 Jonathan Daniels Pilgrimage
Bishop Wright taking part in the Jonathan Daniels Pilgrimage
PHOTO CREDIT: Charles Wynder, Jr. Used with permission.
(C) Episcopal Divinity School.  All rights reserved
Bishop Wright used the work of a not-so-well known saint, Wilfred Thomason Grenfell, to -- forgive a well-worn phrase -- "nail it" with his sermon. It was quite clear to all present where our bishop stood when it comes to the full inclusion of LGBTQ folks in the Episcopal Church. From the point of his consecration/ordination as our bishop in October 2012 (coincidentally on Pride weekend no less!), his goal has been to "draw the circle wider, draw it wider still."

He spoke of being appalled at a number of things, including the high rate of teen/youth suicide attempts and suicides related to issues of sexual orientation and gender identity. His words touched my heart: one of my volunteer activities is with an organization that serves homeless LGBTQ teens and youth. Several times he moved me to tears, both with his words and the simple act of being with us, being "on our side," being present with our struggles.

Ours is not just a bishop of words. He is a bishop of action, having participated at demonstrations at our state capitol over unjust policies and bad legislation. He has blessed same gender relationships, doing so for a priest and her wife in the midst of her parish family and friends. (Of course they didn’t get married here. They had to go to a more enlightened state for that. Perhaps soon we will join civilization.)

I commend the words (and actions) of Bishop Wright to you. Listen to the entire sermon here.



Bruce Garner is Integrity's Province IV (Southeast) Coordinator.  He has served as our president in the past, and has been a member of the Executive Council of the Episcopal Church.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Loving God, Loving Each Other - A sermon by Rev Jon Richardson

Proper 25A
Matthew 22:34-46 

In the name of God.  Amen.

One of the things that can be both exciting, but also sometimes a little bit maddening about Jesus is the way he can twist a question to give the answer he wants to give.  Or, like unto that, the way his answers to questions are sometimes so obtuse that even those first apostles were often left scratching their heads.  If there’s any one overarching personality trait about Jesus that transcends the various Gospel accounts, it’s that: the surprising ways that he answers (and sometimes refuses to answer) questions.

It can be exciting watching him thwart those who mean to oppose him.  But for us - people who simply want to learn and to grow and to follow Christ - his answers can sometimes be a little bit maddening.  Sometimes, we just need a clear, concise answer.  Sometimes we don’t want to have to work so hard.  But that’s not usually Jesus’ way.  Usually, we have to work for it.

Today, however, we hear one of those rare occasions when - even though the Pharisee was trying to test him - Jesus answered plainly and directly.  There could be no mistaking or misunderstanding.

“Which commandment in the law is the greatest?”

Perhaps it was meant to trip him up.  Perhaps they were thinking that if they put him on the spot, he might say something that they could use to incriminate him.

Instead, he spoke about as directly as he ever could have.  He answered clearly, and concisely - in one of those phrases that we should all have etched on our hearts and in our minds to guide us through everything that we do.

“Which commandment in the law is the greatest?”

“‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’  This is the greatest and first commandment.  And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’  On these two hang all the law and the prophets.”

It couldn't be any clearer.  This is what we’re about.  Despite all the ways that people have talked about the faith, and written about it, and done theology, and fought and died and conquered - this is what it all comes down to.

Or at least, what it should all come down to.

Unfortunately, too often it doesn't  Too often we add rules and questions and fears and anxiety.  But the real crux of it all is really pretty simple.  It’s about being in relationship.  It’s about loving God, and loving each other.

It seems like Christianity should be the easiest thing in the world to master.  But too often we fall short.

Over the weekend, I had the great opportunity to join a couple of other priests in our diocese to represent the Diocese of Long Island at an event celebrating and supporting the work of the Ali Forney Center in New York City.  For those who are unfamiliar with their work, AFC is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing support for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender youth who are homeless or whose housing status is insecure.  When teens and young adults come out to their parents as Lesbian, Gay, Bi, or Trans as many as a quarter of them are disowned by their families and put out of their homes - left to fend for themselves and to find their way without the support most young people can expect from their families. Because this rejection by families is so common, more than half of all homeless youth identify as a member of the LGBT community.

“'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’  This is the greatest and first commandment.  And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’  On these two hang all the law and the prophets.”

The Ali Forney Center is battling this scourge with emergency shelters, education programs, drop in centers, and much more.  They are living out the words of Jesus - perhaps better than most of our churches do.

Of course they are not a Christian organization.  They aren’t associated with any religious community or tradition.  But they are doing ministry.  They are living examples of how we should love God and each other.

But, as moving as it was to learn about their work and their mission, and to hear about the great strides that they’re making in easing the effects of a real life problem that’s happening here - in our own back yards; the thing that was most surprising, and most moving to me was the fact that, from the moment we arrived, people kept coming up to us, and stopping us, and thanking us for being there.  Among the thousands of people at this event, we were the only priests, and we stood out.

It should be an embarrassment for Christians everywhere, but the number one reason that young LGBT people are expelled from their homes is because of their parents’ religious beliefs.

So standing out, and being priests at that event was a powerful witness.  It was important for us to be there, and to proclaim proudly that not all Christians are so filled with hate.

One of the most significant things Jesus says in his summary of the law is that little connector between the two commandments.  He says, “A second is like it”.

It’s not just that we are called to love God and to love each other - as separate tasks.  Jesus is saying that it’s almost the same thing.  Part of how we love God is through loving each other.  The best way to show your love for God is to love the people God has created, and also loves.

The Ali Forney Center started from one man’s vision for how the world could be a little bit better.  He imagined what the world would be like if we could divert a little bit of love to some folks who've been among the most unloved in our society - to even the scales, just a little.  In doing so, he and the organization have saved untold thousands of lives.

That’s what love can do.

We may not all start multi-million dollar non-profit organizations to address major social needs.  In fact, most of us won’t.  But what we can do - one of the best ways that we can live out our Christian vocations - is by loving the people whom God has put into our lives.

Sometimes the answers are really simple.  Love God.  Love each other.  That’s the basis of all that we’re called to do.  Amen.

From a sermon delivered at Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in Valley Stream, NY.

The Rev. Jon M. Richardson is Integrity's Vice President for National Affairs.  His blog (at www.JonMRichardson.com) features his sermons and theater reviews

Friday, October 24, 2014

Sean Glenn: HIV and Undetectable Transmission

During a therapy session a few weeks ago, my behavioral health provider asked me a question, "Why do you remain compliant?" (That is to say, "why are you taking your anti-retroviral medications?") To my surprise, my answer left him at a loss for words. After considering every possible vantage, I responded, "I take my medication for the sake of and as an act of service to the community around me."

I could discern the look of perplexity on his face at once. "Really?" he asked, "You don’t take it because of the health benefits and the guarantee of a greater longevity of life? I don’t think I’ve ever heard a patient respond that way."

"No," I responded, "because none of that is really up to me. I could get hit by a bus tomorrow; there are an innumerable myriad of ways that I could die unprepared, and a good 99% of them have nothing to do with the fact that I’m HIV-positive. I give my mortality up to God — we were all ordained to return to the dust one day. I just don’t know when. As such, I think it is more important for me to take my medication to ensure that no one around me contracts the virus from me. It’s the small role I can perform in an effort to eradicate the virus. Nothing would thrill me more at the end of my life than to know that this thing dies with me. That, I guess, is why I work to remain undetectable."

Of course, the virus will likely not die with my passing body, but we are getting closer to such a reality.

As Arthur Campbell Aigner’s eschatological hymn declares, "God is working his purpose out as year
succeeds to year: God is working his purpose out, and the time is drawing near; nearer and nearer draws the time, the time that shall surely be, when the earth shall be filled with the glory of God as the waters cover the sea."

For those living with, and among, the reality of HIV, the qualifier "undetectable" is a step to this divine purpose.

Yet, there exists, within the LGBT community at least, a long standing suspicion of the HIV sero-marker "undetectable." Conversations with some (as well as comment threads on HIV-related articles) display, even in the face of overwhelming scientific findings, a readiness to stigmatize the sero-positive and read "undetectable" as an excuse to "behave poorly and selfishly."

The science, however, may be in and my long standing beliefs seem to hold true in the face of the empirical evidence: treatment as prevention works. In a world where abstinence education simply will not hold among many communities, and where (despite the vast accessibility of condoms) unprotected sex continues its appeal for many partners seeking such a level of intimacy, treatment as prevention is demonstrating a long-ranging efficacy for the reduction of HIV transmission rates.

A landmark Partner study, which "tracked HIV transmission risk through condomless sex [where] the
HIV-positive partner is on suppressive antiretroviral medication—has so far found not even one case
of an HIV-positive person with an undetectable viral load transmitting the virus to a partner." This is
enormous news for both the sero-positive and sero-negative communities. Although researchers fully
disclose the fact that these findings are not yet the final telos for the study of transmission, the results
so far are telling.

As I mentioned in an article a few months back (HIV and Corporate Profit: Recognizing the needs of a Community), treatment as prevention is a method of preventing HIV transmission by ensuring that those who are sero-positive are receiving regular medical care and are taking an anti-retroviral medication so that their viral load (the measurement of viral duplications per milliliter of blood) remains suppressed.

While the scientific findings regarding the efficacy of a suppressed viral load as a part of the treatment as prevention model are indeed exciting, the broad-reaching social implications are somewhat frustrating. As Lucas Grindley comments, "What many experts already know about how HIV is transmitted still holds true: [n]ew infections usually come from people who are undiagnosed, who don’t know they have the virus, and who are not on treatment."

In my own experience, the day-to-day medical realities of life with HIV are seldom what keep people
from knowing their status. While my last article focused heavily on the imperative that anti-retroviral
medication be made as readily and easily available as possible, I also posit that stigma is an enormous
roadblock in the treatment as prevention model. Treatment as prevention only works when people
are willing to know their status, without fear of the systemic, legal, and historical project of HIV
stigmatization, especially as the greater impetus toward reducing medical and scientific illiteracy is
thrust upon the shoulders of the sero-positive.

It is, to say quite simply, an exhausting reality. I can no longer count the times I, among friends,
colleagues, strangers, and prospective lovers, have had to haul out the facts about transmission rates
among those who know their status versus those who do not. I can no longer count the number of
instances wherein I have heard a young man say, "I would get tested, but I’m too scared to."

These words, "I would get tested, but I’m too scared," could very well have been on the lips of the young man from whom I contracted HIV nearly four years ago. Had he known his status and had he been on an anti-retroviral regimen, the trajectory of my own life may well have looked quite different. But systems of stigmatization stood in the way of his own self-knowledge. Indeed, these same systems often stood in the way of my own self-knowledge. This was by no means his or my fault. It is, however, the reason I refuse to hide. It is the reason that I refuse to let HIV-stigmatization go uncriticized, even if it means deeply questioning the assumptions of some in my social circles.

As a church, both denominationally and ecumenically, we are called by the wounded yet living Christ to deeply question any and all manner of stigmatization. There was a slogan often rung out in the streets of protest in the late 1980s, "Our Church Has AIDS." This is still true. As members of the Body of Christ, we share each other’s wounds, and, as such, we are called into the process of reshaping (though never actually erasing) those wounds. If we share each other’s wounds, we share each other’s stigma. We are bound in the Eucharist to Christ’s own death and resurrection, yet also are bound to each other’s wounds, stigma, death, and resurrection, here and now.

The church can, therefore, lead in the project of treatment as prevention. The realities of HIV in our own communities should be openly discussed, and education about the various ways (not just abstinence) of navigating such a world should be requisite. We can end stigma together; and, if we end stigma, we may just be able to end HIV.



Sean R. Glenn is Integrity's Diocesan Organizer for Massachusetts. He is a composer and conductor of sacred choral music, and holds a Masters in Theological Studies from Boston University and a Master of Arts in Music from the Aaron Copland School at Queens College. His home on the web is www.seanglenn.com.


Sean Glenn is the Diocesan Organizer for Massachusetts

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

INTEGRITY HOSTS 40TH ANNIVERSARY INAUGURAL EUCHARIST WITH BISHOP MICHAEL CURRY (PRESS RELEASE)


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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

INTEGRITY HOSTS 40TH ANNIVERSARY INAUGURAL EUCHARIST WITH BISHOP MICHAEL CURRY

Boston, MA - October 20, 2014 - Integrity USA will host its 40th Anniversary Inaugural Eucharist on November 6, 2014 6:00 PM EST at the Church of the Good Shepherd in Raleigh, North Carolina. The Rt. Rev. Michael Bruce Curry, 11th Bishop of North Carolina, will celebrate and preach at the service.

This Anniversary Eucharist also ​serves as a kick-off to our justice work throughout the three dioceses​​ of North Carolina​,​ ​made possible by a generous grant from the Evelyn and Walter Hass, Jr. Fund.​

T​he Eucharist will be followed by a ​wine and hors d'oeuvres ​reception​, hosted by the Integrity Board of Directors. ​​L​GBTQ families, allies, the media, and the questioning are invited to join in the celebration so that all may share their passion for justice and honor the work towards making NC a safe and welcoming home for all.

​This event touches off the celebration of the organization's four decades of advocacy, outreach and fellowship. It will continue through the following year and across the church, with activities in chapters, at partner congregations, and our on-line presence. Integrity USA has been inspiring and equipping the Episcopal Church to proclaim and embody God's love for LGBTQ people and their families and allies since 1974.

Our anniversary year culminates with a joyous Eucharist at the 78th General Convention in Salt Lake ​City in June, at which the Rt. Rev. Mary Douglas Glasspool, Bishop Suffragan of the Diocese of Los Angeles, will preach.
Church of the Good Shepherd is at 25 Hillsborough St, Raleigh, NC 27603. Please contact Integrity USA's Samuel Peterson at sam@integrityusa.org or +1-919-909-6077 for event details.

Integrity is a member-supported nonprofit organization of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender [LGBT] Episcopalians and straight friends. Since its founding by Dr. Louie Crew in 1974, Integrity has been the leading grassroots voice for the full inclusion of LGBT persons in the Episcopal Church and equal access to its rites. Integrity activities include advocacy, worship, fellowship, education, communication, outreach, and service to the church. Through Integrity's evangelism, thousands of LGBT people, estranged from the Episcopal Church and other denominations, have returned to parish life.

Event Contact:
Samuel Peterson


Friday, October 17, 2014

Requiescat in Pace: The Rt. Rev. Marvil Thomas Shaw III, SSJE

Integrity joins the church in mourning the death of the Right Rev. Marvil Thomas "Tom" Shaw III SSJE, recently retired bishop of Massachusetts.

Born in Battle Creek, Michigan in 1945, he was ordained to the priesthood in 1971 and joined the Society of St. John the Evangelist, an Anglican religious order for clergy and laity, in 1975. He served a term as its leader beginning in 1983.  He was consecrated a bishop in 1994 and assumed the diocesan seat the following year.

Bishop Shaw Visiting St. Paul's: Newburyport in January
PHOTO CREDIT: Ollie Jones (flickr.com/joebackward)
Used by Creative Commons License.  Some rights reserved
Bishop Shaw's advocacy for the LGBT community is significant.  He came out in 2012 and described his experience as a gay, celibate monk at the 2008 Lambeth Conference (a worldwide gathering of Anglican bishops that was fraught with controversy over the consecration of the Right Rev. Gene Robinson) in the documentary Love Free or Die.

The Rt. Rev. Mary Douglas Glasspool, Bishop Suffragan in the Diocese of Los Angeles, met Shaw over thirty years ago while a student at the Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge. "He committed himself when he became bishop, that he would make it a priority for LGBT families to feel safe, loved and included before his retirement."

"When I first came into the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts right out of college in 1995, Bishop Shaw was near the beginning of his episcopate. As I got to know this diocese, I was struck by the tone he set-- one of prayer, commitment, public advocacy and proclamation, innovation, discipline. LGBTQ people should remember his early, strong support for HIV/AIDS ministries, of openly gay and lesbian ecclesial leadership, and of marriage equality here in Massachusetts over two decades ago," said the Rev. Cameron Partridge, Co-Convener of TransEpiscopal and Chaplain at Boston University. "His support of transgender equality and leadership is particularly noteworthy, from his quiet support of my ordination process after I came out in 2001, to his public advocacy for trans non-discrimination legislation in MA and at the 2009 and 2012 General Conventions, to his memorable words of welcome at Boston's Trans Day of Remembrance observances from 2010-2013. All of this was so clearly the fruit of his ongoing conversion, of growth into the heart of God to which he always issued an open invitation. For me, that prayerful engagement of transformation -- including the opening of his own heart-- is +Tom's lasting legacy."

"In 2008 Bishop Shaw confirmed me into the Episcopal Church," said Vivian Taylor, executive director of Integrity USA. "His strong, wise leadership created an environment in the Diocese of Massachusetts where I could come out, where I could transition. He is a great leader and his work will live on both here in Massachusetts and throughout the Episcopal Church."

"Tom was a kind, contemplative man, and willing to learn and grow," added Marie Alford-Harkey, Integrity's Province I (New England) Coordinator, a graduate of Episcopal Divinity School and Deputy Director of the Religious Institute.

Bishop Shaw's advocacy did not start or end on human sexuality.  Bishop Glasspool cited his dedication to reforming the structures that lead to poverty, as well as immigration policy and gun laws. He also campaigned for peace in the Middle East and led numerous pilgrimages to the Holy Land, Africa, and South America, to bring about better understanding of global social issues.  Locally, he founded a middle school and other programs for disadvantaged Boston youth, and -- in 2003 -- helped launch the Barbara C. Harris Camp and Conference Center, a facility in Greenfield, N.H. that is operated by the Diocese of Massachusetts.

Christian Paolino is the Chair of the Integrity Stakeholders' Council.  This is a revision of the original breaking story.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Expanding Welcome in Virginia Beach

Earlier this summer, as a service project in preparation for PrideFest, the Virginia Beach chapter of Integrity sent a mailing to each of the 105 churches in the Diocese of Southern Virginia asking if they would like to be identified as a Welcoming Congregation. A stamped postcard with yes, no and contact us was also included so the churches could easily return them. The chapter received 29 responses.


We took the positive responses and added them to our website, http://integritydiosova.blogspot.com/ and created the Welcoming Churches list. We also created a handout and placed the congregations on a map for use at the Integrity booth at our annual PrideFest celebration. The handout and map were well received at PrideFest by the folks who visited the booth.

We also received a couple of invitations from churches to come and help educate others on what it meant to be a welcoming congregation and why it was important. This past Sunday, Board Member, Tina Finnerty and Chapter Convener, Susan Pederson visited the Church of the Ascension in Norfolk and spoke to the Adult Forum class. The church vestry voted to be identified as a welcoming congregation but had questions about why it was important.

“While it is great to be welcoming, unless others know, LGBT folks won’t know where it is safe for them to worship,” shared Tina who told her story of her own search for a welcoming congregation for her and her wife a couple years ago. “When I found a congregation nearby, I sent an email to the rector and asked if we would be welcome because there was nothing specific on their website, though there was a link to Rev. Susan Russell’s blog. I received an affirmative answer and we started attending that parish. Six months later we were both confirmed. Since that time, we have made changes to our website and now it is clearly posted that we are a welcoming congregation and we are presently waiting the official designation from Believe Out Loud.”

“The Virginia Beach Chapter of Integrity has a responsibility to our community, the Diocese and the LGBT folks in our area. We want to let everyone know that they are unconditionally loved by God, and that everyone can find a safe place to worship in an Episcopal Church in our Diocese,” Susan told the audience. “We’re here to help you on your journey to see just how that looks for Ascension.”

Tina Finnerty is a Board Member of the Virginia Beach Chapter of Integrity

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Integrity Idaho Celebrates Ten Years!

A number of years ago, the now-Rev. Deborah Graham approached both LGBT and ally members of St. Michael’s Cathedral in Boise, ID about developing a chapter of Integrity in the Diocese of Idaho.  With a tremendous amount of hard work, and determination, the Idaho chapter of Integrity USA was chartered in October of 2004.

As we venture into our second decade of service to the Diocese of Idaho and her LGBT parishioners, we take time to reflect on what we have accomplished.

  • The first item of importance was to create a safe place for LGBT members and their allies to gather and enjoy fellowship.  We have now established a tradition of monthly gatherings.  We enjoy a potluck meal, followed by some sort of activity or simply just converse.   Activities have included game nights, movie nights, and even dance lessons (we have wedding receptions to get ready for!).
  • Established a presence at Boise Pride celebration.  We have made ourselves available to the general public, so that we could let them know that there are welcoming congregations in the area.
  • Being part of the community-at-large, we found ourselves in the unique position to advise congregations and the general public on LGBT issues.  Concurrently, we were able to help our LGBT faithful to be more outspoken and identifiable in their parishes and communities, while creating a safe haven for worship.
  • As part of our monthly gatherings, we led a series of discussions based on Candace Chellew-Hodge’s book Bulletproof Faith:  A Spiritual Guide for Gay and Lesbian Christians.  This gave us the opportunities to share our own journeys of faith and learn how to be more compassionate with others that did not share our views. 
  • To reach out to our host congregation, St. Michael’s Cathedral, we organized what became known as 'legendary coffee hours'.  One such fell on the Sunday before Ash Wednesday, so it was a Mardi Gras theme, complete with fresh beignets!  While we don’t do these on quite the same scale, we do still offer the occasional coffee hour as a thank you to our congregations.
  • In 2011, we created a membership survey to see how we are doing and what we can do better.  This gave us a good idea as to what our members were thinking about Integrity Idaho and allowed us to set new goals to help fulfill our mission. 
  • We have been sponsors for the Lions Pride Cubs (an LGBT youth group in Idaho) annual winter dance.  This gave us an opportunity to reach out to LGBT youth in our area and give them a safe and welcoming place to gather.
  • We created our own Facebook page!  This gives us more access to the public by having a presence on social media.  Go ahead and give us a like!  Find us at www.facebook.com/integrityidaho 

So here we are a decade later, so where do we go from here?  Thankfully, we have a loving, caring Bishop that is very supportive of our mission.  With his blessing, we are working hard to further our presence in the Diocese of Idaho.  Here is what we are currently working on and watching out for:

  • We are launching a new web page!  What makes this exciting for us is that we have never had real presence on the web.  We are certainly mentioned, but there has not been anything that gives people a direct resource or contact to us.  We hope to launch our new page by November 1.  Be sure to check us out on the web at http://integrity.episcopalidaho.org 
  • Currently in Idaho, there are several political issues on the horizon that we are keeping a very close eye on and speaking out when necessary.  The first being the issue regarding Idaho’s same-sex marriage ban.  This ban was recently struck down and is currently working its way through the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.  As you may be aware, the 9th Circuit did issue their ruling, stating that the Idaho ban was illegal.  However, a stay from SCOTUS has been issued therefore; marriages in Idaho are on hold.  We are certainly hopeful for a positive outcome, and continue to pray that these justices will see just how important this is for Idaho and her citizens.  In response to the Governor and Attorney General’s continuing to defend the ban, Integrity Idaho did publish an open letter on October 8.  This letter will be made available on our web page upon its launch.

UPDATE:  On Wednesday, October 15, 2014 at 10AM MST – MARRIAGE EQUALITY COMES TO IDAHO!  All stays have been lifted, and the Governor and Attorney General, while still opposed to lifting the ban on same-sex marriage, have dropped their legal maneuvers to continue this unconstitutional mandate.

  • Another issue that is taking precedence here in Idaho, is the 'Add the Words' movement.  The goal of this movement is to add the words ‘sexual orientation and gender identity’ to the current Idaho Civil Rights Statute.  These four simple words would offer protections for GLBT persons so that they could not be fired from their jobs, be discriminated against for housing, among many other protections.  The problem is that for the last nine years, the Idaho Legislature has refused to even hold a hearing on the bill.  In January of this year, Integrity Idaho sent an open letter to all Idaho Legislators including Governor C. L. "Butch" Otter.  While our letter was welcomed by those law makers that are in favor of this legislation, we received a rather cold response from Idaho’s Republican majority.  That does not mean that we are giving up!  We are working to foster a conversation with law makers on both sides of the aisle.  This also came on the heels of Idaho’s so-called 'Religious Freedom' bills, that if passed would have allowed hate and discrimination in the name of 'personally held religious beliefs'.  When these bills came up in committee, over 500 people turned out to speak in opposition of this legislation.  Among those to testify to the committee were our own Bishop, the Rt. Rev. Brian Thom, and Integrity Idaho co-director, Susan Bolen.
  • We recognize that due to the current political climate within our state, it is now more important than ever to identify welcoming and affirming congregations, regardless of denomination.  We are currently working on a plan to identify these congregations in conjunction with the Believe Out Loud program. We will start by working with our own Diocese, and then we will broaden our scope to identify other faiths that are welcoming and affirming by working with the Interfaith Equality Coalition (based in Boise, ID).  While goals for this have not yet been set, we anticipate having our plan defined and in place by the first of the year.

We give thanks to God for our 10th anniversary, working for inclusion and acceptance of all of God’s children in the Diocese of Idaho.  We pray for another successful ten years to come.

Nik Dumas and Susan Bolen are the Co-Directors / Co-Conveners of Integrity Idaho

Friday, October 10, 2014

Renewal in Grace and Communion - A Reflection by Matt Haines


Deliver us from the presumption of coming to this Table for solace only,
and not for strength; 
for pardon only, 
and not for renewal. 
Let the grace of this Holy Communion make us one  body, 
one spirit in Christ, 
that we may worthily serve the  world in his name. 
Eucharistic Prayer C, BCP 371

For forty years we have brought solace to many LGBTQ people and their families as we have welcomed them into our organization and eventually into our congregations. Through years of hard work within the polity of our beloved Episcopal Church we have been able to realize our own strength as LGBTQ people of faith. Our justice work has brought the Church to a practice of pardon for the role we all have played in the oppression of LGBTQ Christians. Integrity USA and The Episcopal Church are now in a time great of renewal.

Renewal is a spiritual word. It is not the same as replace. Not one of us can ever be replaced. We are made in the image of God and are baptized as Christ’s own forever. Instead, renewal connotes improving a relationship already begun. That is why we renew our common Baptismal Covenant at baptisms, confirmations, and of course in Easter-time. Our relationships resurrect through the process of renewing.

Our renewal will not replace our other efforts; only enhance them. We will still bring solace to those rejected by Church, society and family. These people will bring us a new look at God’s diversity as we meet people we would not normally seek out.

Our strength will increase as new leaders join those already serving to build power through relationship and witness in our parishes, dioceses and of course General Convention. Harvey Milk often said that coming out of the closet was a political act. Justice requires dedication and interaction within the political processes of both Church and State. Let us continue to come out!

We will continue to seek pardon. After all, we as an organization have not always “served with our whole hearts”. Sometimes we have hurt one other and have failed to recognize the hurts each of us personally bear. Integrity still joins in our common work of the Consultation and other allies to do our part to bring justice to all parts of the Church and the world it touches.

We will seek renewal as one Body of Christ’s own Spirit. Integrity will serve the world in that Holy Name with Grace. Let us joyfully rejoice in renewal!


Matt Haines is the President of the Board of Directors at Integrity USA

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Special Election Results : President, Board of Directors of Integrity USA

The Board of Directors of Integrity wishes to congratulate and thank both candidates Matt Haines and Rev. Dr. Elizabeth Kaeton for prayerfully offering to serve out the term of Integrity President that ends October 1, 2015.

After this week's vote by the Stakeholders of Integrity (Lifetime Members, Diocesan Organizers, Proud Parish Partners, Parish Partners, Chapter Conveners), we would like to congratulate the new President of Integrity USA: Matt Haines

Thank you to the Stakeholders for guiding Integrity during the next year. Your care, commitment, and thoughtfulness has been much appreciated.

The next planned election will be next year when the full membership of Integrity elects the board of directors.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Marriage Equality Takes A Giant Leap Forward

Integrity USA is thrilled to see marriage equality make significant strides these past two days.  Five state petitioned the Supreme Court to review the cases that overturned their bans but were denied: Wisconsin, Indiana, Utah, Oklahoma, and Virginia . Other states in the circuits affected by Monday's denial should be seeing marriage equality soon as well because they are in the same court circuit: Kansas, North Carolina, South Carolina, Colorado, West Virginia, and Wyoming.  And on Tuesday, the 9th Circuit confirmed that the bans in Nevada and Idaho were unconstitutional, and given Monday's news, may choose to not appeal. This court decision implies that Alaska, Montana, and Arizona may soon see marriage equality.

Within months or even weeks then, 64% of the US population will live in states with marriage equality in 35 states. The eleven states directly affected by the Monday's Supreme Court action involve several southern states, including Virginia, South Carolina, and my own ancestral home of North Carolina. This is an incredible an time for LGBTQ people across the nation. 

64%! It seemed incredible to think that there was going to be legal same gender marriage anywhere in the United States as recently as 12 years ago, and now a clear majority of our population will have access to the right. 

It is easy for us to celebrate, and we should celebrate vigorously. But let us not allow our excitement to become complacency, not allow our joy to lead to apathy for the needs of that other 36% of the population that still faces homophobic, flagrantly unconstitutional laws that limit their basic human rights. 

We must continue forward until gay and lesbian people everywhere have full protection and just treatment under law. 

For today, we thank you God for Your mercy and love, and for Your guidance of our nation as we continue towards freedom for all people.


Sarah Vivian Gathright Taylor is the Executive Director of Integrity USA